New publication shows key role of WEPHREN in building capacity of health professionals

A new publication in the Public Health Panorama series documents the importance of the Worldwide Prison Health Research and Engagement Network (WEPHREN) in supporting the professional development of health-care staff in prisons, thereby building capacity in prison health worldwide.

An estimated 10 million people are imprisoned worldwide. Prison populations have considerable health needs, and yet they often receive suboptimal care. Staff working to deliver health care to people in prison play an important role. They not only ensure that the prisoners’ health needs are met but they also provide a service to society as evidence suggests that health and reoffending are closely linked. Despite its importance, the work of health-care staff in prisons tends to be undervalued and under-recognized, and recruitment and retention are important issues within the workforce.

WHO/Europe, in partnership with Public Health England and the University of Oxford, launched WEPHREN on 14 July 2017 with the objective of improving the quality and quantity of prison health research and developing capacity in prison health across the world. It aims to address inequities in research and professional development, with the ultimate goal of improving the health and well-being of people in prison globally.

Although only a few months old, WEPHREN already has nearly 300 members from many different countries and is rapidly developing a number of useful resources for its members, including links to important publications and guidelines. Throughout October, and to mark World Mental Health Day (10 October 2017), WEPHREN will be hosting a “Mental Health” month on its website and will be launching a package of resources for those working in prison with people with mental health issues. This package will include research articles, treatment guidelines and case studies.

Registration to join WEPHREN is free, quick and simple, via the WEPHREN website. Joining gives the opportunity to influence the direction of development for this important global resource through an online survey designed to assess the research and professional development priorities of members.